Comeback tours always feel exciting. Whether it’s the Spice Girls performing at the Olympics Opening Ceremonies almost two decades after their peak or Fleetwood Mac reuniting for the 18th time, these shows are a chance to relive the past, or to see what you might have missed the first time around. Of course, tickets might be expensive, and there’s the worry that they’ll play too much new stuff, but hey, it’s Stevie Nicks.
After nine years in San Francisco, Una Pizza Napoletana is back in NYC, and in many ways, it’s a classic comeback tour. They’re playing the greatest hits, there’s a hot opening act, and tickets are not cheap.
For some background, Una Pizza Napoletana was for years a beloved Neapolitan spot in the East Village, known for its super simple pies, each made painstakingly by one guy. In 2009, the restaurant left NYC for San Francisco, where it also became very popular, before finally returning to NYC in 2018 and settling into the Lower East Side. The restaurant in its current iteration is co-run with the people behind nearby Wildair and Contra, and they’re responsible for the small plates and desserts, as well as the wine.
The pizza part of the menu is very short, and the options are basically all permutations of mozzarella and tomato - there’s a margherita, a marinara, a white pie, and one with egg and salami that’s only available on Saturdays. The crust is light and chewy, and gooey in the middle in a good way. It’s true Neapolitan pizza that absolutely should be eaten with a knife and fork, starting from the middle. Contradicting the fact that food always tastes better when eaten with your hands, cutting into the center here rather than picking it up really does make it taste better.
How completely into this pizza you’ll be is going to depend somewhat on your personal taste - if you like classic, extremely simple Neapolitan pies, you’ll really like what they do here. Those first few bites into the center in particular produced that “oh, this is good, I need to have a moment with this pizza” face that great pies have. And they’d better, because these pizzas cost $25 each, which, simply put, is a lot for a margherita pizza.
Beyond pizza, this comeback tour has picked up a pretty cool opening act with appetizers and desserts from the Wildair team, and they’re a big part of a meal here, though they feel somewhat randomly paired with the pizza. If you’re going to get one starter, make sure it’s the beef crudo with cheese, pistachio, and olives, which is like a pleasurable punch in the face. Others, like a lobster crudo or white asparagus dish, are very tasty, but they also feel a little delicate (they’re very small) as a precursor to the pizza. It would be sort of like having Bob Dylan open for Van Halen. Cool idea, even if the energy feels a little off. If you’re budgeting costs or stomach space, we’d instead suggest you put your resources towards dessert, because the options on that front are all fantastic. The ice cream, as well as the tiramisu and panna cotta, are unique takes that we can comfortably say are the best thing here.
Una Pizza Napoletana is a restaurant with a lot of great (though pricey) component parts - the small plates, pizzas, and desserts are all really good. And the space is pretty neutral, like it could be a nice art museum cafe. So think of it this way: a strong comeback tour show, in a nice but unremarkable venue, with a slightly mismatched but also very good opener who killed it on that last song.
Our server suggested eating the pizzas “from the inside out,” which means cutting into the center, or at least slicing the pie into halves or quarters and diving in from there. This is especially key on the margherita, where those first few bites are really key. If you’re only getting one pizza, as always, it should be the margherita.
We were surprised by how much we enjoyed this tomato-less pizza. Probably because there’s a lot of olive oil on it. Once again, eat it from the inside out.
The marinara is a good way to showcase the very-good pizza dough at UPN. Although it’s technically lighter than the others, the oregano adds a kick. Get one if you’re a big group.
Bread, tomato, and cheese, just slightly different! Also with basil.
Topping raw beef slices with olive, parmesan, and pistachio sounds like it could be the food equivalent of banging on drums in the middle of Times Square. It kind of is, and it’s awesome.
This dish of raw lobster with raw chickpeas is small, tasty, and kind of feels like the first course of a tasting menu.
Spreadable sausage comes topped with thin slices of radish. It’s tangy and rich and also sort of refreshing, but not quite as memorable as the crudo or lobster.
With more interesting small plates here, you can skip the prosciutto.
Now we’re talking. This panna cotta with little dollops of strawberry cream is what we imagine they serve in dessert heaven, which is where you go after death in a new religion we just started.
They serve this too in the afterlife of our dessert-worshipping religion.
The gelato here is salty, and made us think all gelato should be salty from here on out.